Cheerios sent out over 1.5 billion wildflower seeds to their customers in an effort to save the bees. This a great example of a company using strategic public relations to give back to the environment, but there are some flaws.
The seed packets that Cheerios are sending out are not location specific. Many of these seeds are being sent to places they don’t technically belong, which can cause a spread of invasive species.
An invasive plant is defined as, ” non-native (or alien) to the ecosystem under consideration and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.” (Executive Order 13751)
In West Virginia, Over 270 non-native plant species have been documented as being invasive and approximately 36% of these are ranked as posing moderate to high threats. (wvdnr.gov)
- The California Poppy is not familiar to West Virginia. (Hence the name California)
- The Aster Flower is found in New England, and is also not familiar with West Virginia.
You can actually search different plants and see where they are native on this interactive map.
The U.S. looses over $127 billion dollars annually due to invasive species damage to crops, forest losses, damage from insects and other invertebrate pests, human diseases, control costs, and even loss of residential value. West Virginia spends millions of dollars every year to reduce the impacts of invasive species on forestry, agriculture, natural resources, and recreation. (wvdnr.gov)
Cheerios is partnered with Xerces, an organization which offers locally customized and ecologically responsible seed mixes. The organization even offers an entire guide for gardening in the Mid-Atlantic region (which includes West Virginia). So Cheerios missed an opportunity to localize the seed packets they sent out.
A small home garden is not likely to do much damage spreading invasive plants and many of the seed packets from Cheerios will likely sit in kitchen junk drawers across the U.S. However, it is important to be aware of the potential damage these wildflower seeds can do.
Honeybees aren’t even the type of bees at serious risk!
According to Entomologist Gwen Pearson,
The bees you should be concerned about are the 3,999 other bee species living in North America, most of which are solitary, stingless, ground-nesting bees you’ve never heard of.
Her article goes into great detail of different bee species and why they are disappearing.
General Mills released a press release announcing,
Last spring, Honey Nut Cheerios announced that by the end of 2020, farms that grow oats for Cheerios will house approximately 3,300 total acres of dedicated pollinator habitat on 60,000 acres of land.
They expect these new farms to double the amount of pollinators currently living there.
The company even acknowledged that honeybees are not the bees to worry about.
Although, BuzzBee and his honey bee friends may not be in danger of extinction like some other pollinators, in the interest of protecting our food supply, General Mills is committed to helping all pollinators thrive through the planting of these habitats.
Buzz will be fine, but there are thousands of other bee’s that are suffering.
This Cheerios campaign may not be perfect, but at the very least they are spreading this conversation at a national level. The results of this campaign proved that at the very least, people are willing to help.
Check out West Virginia Beekeepers Association for more information on bees in our area.